lithium battery
Image by Marilyn Murphy from Pixabay

Department of Energy-Funded Ultrafast Lithium Battery Charges in Just Five Minutes

New research funded by the Department of Energy has created a potentially revolutionary lithium battery that can be fully charged in only five minutes. State-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries, which power everything from mobile phones to electric cars, can take hours to fully charge, frustrating electric vehicle owners and high-volume phone users alike.

The Cornell University researchers behind the new lithium battery caution that the design has limitations, including a high weight that may make it impractical for some applications. Still, they say that their discovery could point the way to other materials that share the same fast-charging properties without the same limitations, potentially revolutionizing entire industries.

New Lithium Battery Could Cure Range Anxiety

Where mobile phones can be charged almost anywhere, and backup battery packs can dramatically increase usage times between charges, electric vehicles have yet to find an easy, practical solution to slow charging times. The result is a phenomenon that researchers call “range anxiety,” meaning a fear of taking electric vehicles on long trips due to the fact that recharging them could take hours.

To combat this phenomenon, electric vehicle manufacturers have increased battery sizes that can extend the miles between charges. Unfortunately, the added weight of larger batteries reduces their efficiency, resulting in even longer and slower recharging times to reach full capacity.

“Range anxiety is a greater barrier to electrification in transportation than any of the other barriers, like cost and capability of batteries,” said Lynden Archer, professor of engineering and dean of Cornell’s College of Engineering, who oversaw the project.

However, says Archer, if one can charge their EV’s battery in five minutes, one no longer needs to have a battery that’s big enough for a 300-mile range. “You can settle for less, which could reduce the cost of EVs, enabling wider adoption,” the professor explains.

Novel Electrical Properties Allow Indium-Based Lithium Battery to Charge in Minutes

To try to reduce EV charging times from hours to a few minutes, Archer’s team looked for a material that had the right mix of electrical and material properties to accomplish the task. They soon landed on a soft metal called Indium. While not currently used to make batteries, Indium is already widely used to create Indium-tin oxide that coats anything from solar panels to touchscreen displays. This means it is available at a reasonable cost and at an industrial scale.

According to the researchers, the key components making Indium a candidate for a fast-charging battery are an extremely low migration energy barrier, “which sets the rate at which ions diffuse in the solid state,” and a relatively modest exchange current density, “which is related to the rate at which ions are reduced in the anode.”

lithium battery
After fast charging their new lithium battery, the researchers observed its indium anode had a smooth lithium electrodeposition, whereas other anode materials can grow dendrites that impact the battery’s performance.

“The key innovation is we’ve discovered a design principle that allows metal ions at a battery anode to freely move around, find the right configuration and only then participate in the charge storage reaction,” Archer said. “The end result is that in every charging cycle, the electrode is in a stable morphological state.”

By taking advantage of these two properties, Archer says they were able to create a lithium battery that charges in minutes and can be recharged thousands of times without losing significant capacity. If adapted to electric vehicle designs, they say that this type of battery could effectively eliminate range anxiety.

“We have identified a pathway to eliminate it [range anxiety] using rational electrode designs,” Archer explained.

New Battery Has Limitations But May Point the Way to a Practical Solution

In their published work, which appears in the journal Joule, the researchers caution that due to Indium’s heavy weight, their breakthrough design is not likely to revolutionize the EV industry overnight. Still, they believe that their work can point their fellow engineers in the right direction, potentially leading to a powerful battery that can recharge in mere minutes.

“While this result is exciting, in that it teaches us how to get to fast-charge batteries, indium is heavy,” Archer said. “Therein lies an opportunity for computational chemistry modeling, perhaps using generative AI tools, to learn what other lightweight materials chemistries might achieve the same intrinsically low Damköhler numbers.”

“For example, are there metal alloys out there that we’ve never studied which have the desired characteristics?” Archer asks. “That is where my satisfaction comes from, that there’s a general principle at work that allows anyone to design a better battery anode that achieves faster charge rates than the state-of-the-art technology.”

Christopher Plain is a Science Fiction and Fantasy novelist and Head Science Writer at The Debrief. Follow and connect with him on X, learn about his books at, or email him directly at